Aug 16, 2012|
When did going for a mani-pedi become so damn complicated? Far from the simple polish n’ go of yesteryear, new trends and techniques have appeared over the past few years to give nail art enthusiasts more options than ever. So how do you navigate the huge and bewildering menu of services available at your local salon? Here’s a roundup of the techniques on offer to help you pick the one that’s best suited to you.
What is it? Everyone is talking about Shellac. A seriously hard-wearing, long-lasting nail color developed and trademarked by nail care brand CND, it’s near impossible to scratch, chip, mark or otherwise damage. Multiple coats of Shellac polish are applied by a nail technician and then dried under a UV lamp at each stage. It’s so hard-wearing because it’s made with a resin secreted by the lac bug, which gives a tough, lacquer-esque finish.
Pros: If you’re the type who smudges your nail color before even leaving the salon, this sturdy technique is for you. A Shellac manicure will look immaculate for up to two weeks before it starts growing out.
Cons: You can’t do Shellac at home—in fact, you have to go back to the salon to get your Shellac removed. It’s also significantly pricier than regular manicures, and at 24 shades, you don't have much choice by way of color. There are also fears that UV lamps are exposing hands to damaging rays.
Perfect for: Anyone who needs good manicures week in, week out. According to converts, Shellac’s durability is absolutely worth the extra money.
What is it? Acrylics have been around for years, and are becoming slightly less popular as high-tech nail options become more accessible. Gina Chadapron, a nail technician at Feel Good Factor, explains the technique: “First, we file the nail and apply primer. Then, we brush on a mixture of liquid and powdered acrylic, extending the nail if that’s what the client would like. After one or two minutes, it’s dried, and then we use a machine file to shape the nail. We use clear acrylic, which the client can color with regular polish, but colors and French tips are also available.”
Pros: If you’re sick of your bitten-down nubs, acrylics can provide serious nail extensions. Chadapron says: “If our clients have weak nails or bite their nails, then acrylics can help guide the shape of the regrowth, allowing the original nail to recover and grow underneath.” They’re also tough and last about a month.
Cons: Long-term use can wreak havoc on your digits. “We don’t recommend our customers use acrylic constantly—your nails can’t breathe,” says Chadapron. “To remove them, you have put your fingers through multiple rounds of solvent and scraping. Actually, most people who come to us for acrylics are visitors from overseas; Hong Kong people prefer Shellac.” Don’t try to settle for a cheap set, either, as poorly applied acrylics can lead to a fungal infection in the nail bed. Although they’re durable, there is always the risk of cracks and splits.
Perfect for: Allowing damaged, too-short nails to recover for a month—but no longer.
What is it? Similar to acrylic nails, hard gels are also a long-term nail extension technique. The gel is painted on and dried with a UV lamp in three rounds.
Pros: “Gel nails are good for unique designs and you can do nail art with them,” says Chadapron. In fact, all those crazy nails you see on passersby with mad colors and wild nail art are more likely gel nails, not acrylic as most people assume.
Cons: Hard gel has to be filed off. “We use a machine to remove the hard gel from the nail, and in the process, the surface of your nail will be buffed off as well. Over time, nails will become thinner and weaker,” says Chadapron. Soft gel nails (such as Axxium and Gelcolor, see below) can be soaked off with acetone (simple nail polish remover), and are therefore more popular these days.
Perfect for: Nail fashionistas with a crazy commitment to wild designs.
What is it? They might sound like Star Trek spacecraft, but Axxium and Gelcolor are in fact new soark-off gel nail techniques from nail color brand OPI. The techniques are similar—painting layers of polish interspersed with intervals of drying under a UV lamp—but while Axxium is quite thick, Gelcolor (the latest on the market) offers a thinner, more “polish-like” finish.
Pros: Most mani-pedi mavens want to know which is better: Shellac or soft gel. Axxium has a better range of colors (50 shades, compared to 30 for Gelcolor and 24 for Shellac). Gelcolor actually dries under an LED lamp, which is safer than the UV exposure required by Shellac and Axxium.
Cons: Again, removing the polish requires a return trip to the salon. Beauty bloggers reckon that Axxium is harder to remove than Shellac.
Perfect for: Durable nail color that doesn’t wreck your talons.
What is it? A big nail trend from last year, Minx Nails was invented in Hollywood by nail technicians who wanted highly versatile nail colors, patterns and finishes that were safe and durable. What they came up with was a vinyl polymer that is shrink-wrapped onto nails by applying a little heat. The plastic sheets come in just about any style imaginable, from houndstooth to leopard print and everything in between.
Pros: If you’re into wicked nail designs, then you’ll be thrilled by the huge range of patterns on offer. Checkerboard, chrome finishes, polka dots and vintage lace—you’ll find it all here. It’s also chemical-free (so you won’t be breathing in any nasty fumes) and dries instantly.
Cons: Picking the wrong pattern will tip the scales from quirky to crazy in no time at all. And there’s that inevitable downside of ultra-durable nail-work: taking it off is a huge pain in the ass.
Perfect for: If you want to make a seriously stylish art statement with your fingers.
What is it? A file n' polish is what most of us think of when it comes to mani-pedis. The nail technician applies varnish from a little bottle and then you take it off a few days later. Simple.
Pros: It’s the cheapest option of the bunch and it has the best range of colors—in fact it’s quite possible that there are more shades in the OPI color spectrum than the human eye is capable of seeing. You can do it yourself at home, and taking it off is a breeze.
Cons: It takes ages to dry and you can expect the polish to start chipping within a few days. Bad-quality nail polishes will stain your nails yellow, and a lot of them contain formaldehyde and other nasty chemicals. And don’t get us started on the undesirable “waffle-print” effect you get when you put your socks back on before your toes are fully dried.
Perfect for: When you need an amazing color for an evening, but you can deal with the inevitable chipping.
One of the first spas in town to introduce Minx Nails. A Minx manicure at Mira Spa is $600. It also offers gel nails for $1,100. Right now, first-time customers can get a full set of gel nails for a discounted price of $550.
B3/F, The Mira, 188 Nathan Rd.,Tsim Sha Tsui, 2315-5500.
Feel Good Factor
This outlet offers a huge range of nail services, including Shellac ($420), hard gels ($900) and acrylics ($1,000). The speedy manicurists can get your nails filed, Shellacked and dried in less than an hour.
2/F, Winsome House, 73 Wyndham St., Central, 2530-0610, www.feelgoodfactor.com.hk.
An official OPI educator salon, Rainbow Nails has a huge range of services, including Axxium, Gelcolor and Shellac. The current special offer for the summer is a full set of Shellac nails for $590.
Unit 503, 5/F, Canton House, 54-56 Queen’s Rd. Central, 2840-0660, www.rainbownails.com.hk.
This joint specializes in intricate nail art—check its Facebook page for amazing photos.
1/F, 46 Haiphong Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2311-0337, www.facebook.com/nailmehk.